Currently when a person uses a light box, he needs to manage his own phototherapy treatment sessions every day. This entails carving out time to sit in front of the light box, figuring out how long the session should last, and remembering to do this the next day. Falling off a treatment schedule or ending treatment before winter is over can quickly bring back symptoms.
The size, shape and incredible brightness of a typical light box all call a great amount of attention to the device, creating the possibility of awkward tension if it’s used in a social environment such as a person’s office desk.
Primary design goals
A light box should learn about who it’s serving and cater to that person’s unique needs. Our goal was to build a light box that senses how much therapy someone needs based on his or her current levels of activity and sleep, and them automatically times each session appropriately. The activity and sleep data come from the recipient’s Fitbit – a wristband they wear throughout the day that monitors their step count and sleep habits, among other things.
To help with energizing during the day or calming at night, we also set out to make our light box time-aware. If it’s being used during the day, it provides full-spectrum light and if it’s being used at night it provides orange light, which studies have shown helps people sleep better than white light.
Someone who needs light therapy shouldn’t have to hide out at home for 30 minutes everyday; the sessions should fit in more seamlessly with their daily routine. To avoid feelings of embarrassment or discomfort, we set out to make our light box function dually as a tool for therapy and a delightful piece of artwork for an office desk.
When discussing how we might construct the piece, we entertained many different ideas.
Ultimately, we decided to design the box around the experience of sitting at a computer, with the idea that therapy sessions can most efficiently be completed while the recipient checks email, does work or watches TV shows and movies. The box is triangular in shape to encourage the therapy recipient to set it catty-corner to his or her computer, with the light facing his or her eyes.
We also played with several ideas for how to make the box visually appealing. A couple of our original sketches are below. In the end we went with a pretty sweet laser-cut vinyl print over opaque acrylic for a soft, zenny feel.